Introducing Gino & Magozzi
The cornerstone to any crime novel or series is the detective (or detectives) who take you through the story as they unravel a mystery. When PJ and I were sketching out Minneapolis homicide detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth, we knew there had to be a delicate balance between gravity and levity. In reality, those whose occupations require them to deal with human tragedy and depravity as a matter of course can be extraordinarily complex personalities. Maintaining sanity in that milieu requires not only a sturdy constitution, but a deft ability to let in some light from time to time, as inappropriate as that may seem from an outside perspective. In fiction, it can be particularly difficult to find that balance, because the main characters are not only witnesses to the dark side, they are your personal guides. And nobody wants the Grim Reaper as a tour guide, nor do they want Benny Hill.
Neither of them are straight men, but Magozzi is perhaps the darker and more introspective of the two. When we first meet him in Want to Play? he is still stinging from his divorce from the philandering Heather until Grace MacBride, the enigmatic founder of Monkeewrench Software, enters his orbit. Their nascent relationship is combative, which doesn’t dissuade him from pursuit; neither does the fact that she’s a suspect in a string of grisly murders. The trajectory of their relationship throughout the series is a bumpy, wild ride, and definitely one of the most unpredictable elements in the series.
In contrast, Gino is a blissfully married man with two children he dotes on – in Magozzi’s opinion, an idyllic life that he envies but can never quite attain, at least in the traditional sense. Gino’s hallmarks are his staunch loyalty and irreproachable moral code, his jovial cynicism, and his high-tempered rants against anything from criminals to the potholes in his alley. He also torments Magozzi with outlandish crime scene theories that often prove to be incisive and revelatory. One of the greatest things about writing Gino’s character is the sense that there is a very loose cannon dwelling inside his well-padded physique that is just barely held at bay by the grounding his family life provides.
But there is nothing more fun than writing the two of them together – it’s an author’s dream. PJ and I often said that if we could get away with writing a novel with just Gino and Magozzi bantering back and forth for a few hundred pages, we would.